Experiencing tradition in Tokyo’s shitamachi area

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Experiencing tradition in Tokyo’s shitamachi area

Course: Shunkaen Bonsai Museum >> Sumida Edo Kiriko-kan >> Sumo Museum >> Tokyo Metropolitan Edo-Tokyo Museum >> Tsukishima Monja Street

This course explores spots that offer the experience of tradition and history alive in the shitamachi area of eastern Tokyo, centering on Sumida-ku, Edogawa-ku, and Chuo-ku. The creative spirit of artisans and merchants in the premodern Edo period centuries ago may adapt to the times but at its root never changes. Each destination here has many highlights that invite you to stay for as long as possible.

10:00 JR Sobu Line Koiwa Station South Exit

Keisei Bus No. 76 (for Kasai/Mizue) 20 min. to Keiyoguchi
 
Walk 2 minutes
 

10:30 1Shunkaen Bonsai Museum

Shunkaen Bonsai Museum is run by celebrated bonsai artist Kunio Kobayashi. The world of bonsai enshrines the grandeur of nature in a miniscule pot. It’s an aspect of traditional Japanese culture that draws admirers from around the world.
The premises of the museum are lined with hundreds of miniature trees, including works shortlisted in bonsai competitions, each encapsulating the beauty of the four seasons. Some are alive for more than 300 years. If time allows—and if luck is on your side—visitors are recommended to watch the artisans up close as they maintain the trees.

Walk 2 minutes to Keisei Bus Keiyoguchi
 
Bus 20 minutes
 

12:00 2JR Sobu Line Koiwa Station

Train 10 minutes
 

12:10 3JR Sobu Line Kinshicho Station

Kinshicho is long a lively section of the shitamachi area. Not far from TOKYO SKYTREE and quite the international neighborhood, there’s never a shortage of lunching destinations. Yakiniku barbecue, ethnic food, seafood, ramen noodles, nostalgic Western-style diners, Chinese cuisine… The sheer variety of choices promises you’ll discover a yet unknown hit restaurant.

Walk 8 minutes
 

13:30 4Sumida Edo Kiriko-kan

Edo Kiriko cut glass is a traditional handicraft of Tokyo renowned throughout Japan. Sumida Edo Kiriko-kan offers countless products, not only in classic patterns but also in new designs tailored to the times.
Not to be missed is the workshop inviting even solo guests to create their original Edo Kiriko (reservations required). Select your favorite colored glass, and engrave a pattern in it with advice from the staff. The beauty of Edo Kiriko is that each intricate, delicate cut offers a glimpse into the heart of the creator, and it’s even pleasant to the touch. Discover your favorite pattern and try to emulate it in the workshop. (Time required: 90 minutes)

Walk 8 minutes
 

15:20 5JR Sobu Line Kinshicho Station

Train 3 minutes
 

15:25 6JR Sobu Line Ryogoku Station West Exit

Walk 3 minutes
 

15:30 7Sumo Museum

The Sumo Museum is inside the Ryogoku Kokugikan Sumo Hall, immediately to the right of the main entrance. It opened in 1954 to preserve the precious artifacts collected by the first curator, Tadamasa Sakai. The objects on display range from nishiki-e woodblock prints to banzuke lists of sumo wresters’ ranks, to kesho-mawashi decorative aprons.
There is no permanent exhibition in the single room constituting the museum. Instead, six exhibitions are organized each year themed around the different facets of sumo.

Walk 1 minute
 

16:30 8Tokyo Metropolitan Edo-Tokyo Museum

A short walk from Ryogoku Station and next to the Ryogoku Kokugikan Sumo Hall stands a building that looks like an enormous object. This is the Tokyo Metropolitan Edo-Tokyo Museum, dedicated to preserving, collecting, and displaying a variety of objects that reflect the history and culture of Tokyo from the Edo period (1603–1868) to the present.
The permanent exhibition area was renovated in 2014 to showcase replicas that offer even deeper insight into the Edo-Tokyo lifestyle. It starts off with a life-size model of the Nihombashi Bridge, and leads through miniature Edo streetscapes and other easy-to-understand displays and materials that encapsulate the charms of Tokyo culture. Allow ample time to visit the museum, as it’s packed with familiar objects.

Walk 1 minute
 

18:00 9Toei Oedo Line Ryogoku Station

Train 8 minutes
 

18:08 10Toei Oedo Line Tsukishima Station Exit 7

Walk 0 minutes
 

18:10 11Tsukishima Monja Street (Tsukishima Nishinaka-dori Shopping Street)

A signature dish of Tokyo’s shitamachi area is the monjayaki, a soft, fluid version of the okonomiyaki pancake that was originally conceived as a children’s snack. Today, the best place to enjoy monjayaki is Tsukishima Monja Street, where more than 30 member restaurants of the Tsukishima Monja Promotion Association serve variations of the dish. Beginners are welcome. The staff are happy to cook the monja for you and teach you the proper way to eat it. Sit back and delight in the casual time-honored shitamachi specialty.

Walk 20 minutes
 

19:30 Toei Oedo Line / Tokyo Metro Tozai Line Monzen-nakacho Station

Model course Experiencing tradition in Tokyo’s shitamachi area is displayed on a larger map

The red lines indicate trains and subways, blue lines are buses and cars, green lines are for walking, pink lines are for bicycles, purple lines are ships and water buses.

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